New Report Reveals a Powerful Factor That Led to the Flint Water Crisis

February 19th 2017

Willie Burnley Jr.

The Michigan Civil Rights Commission validated for many Americans who've been following the Flint water crisis unfold what they likely already knew - systemic racism had a role in it. In a report released by the group Friday, “The Flint Water Crisis: Systemic Racism Through The Lens of Flint,” provided an in-depth analysis of the crisis. 

"The people of Flint have been subjected to unprecedented harm and hardship, much of it caused by structural and systemic discrimination and racism that have corroded your city, your institutions, and your water pipes, for generations," the 129-page report stated. 

The civil rights commission embarked on a year-long investigation which included three public hearings and testimony from over 150 city residents to ensure "another Flint" doesn't happen in Michigan or elsewhere.

The report stated that “de facto discrimination,” which included housing segregation and the implicit racial bias of government were at “the heart and soul of this crisis.” Nearly 57 percent of Flint residents are black, according to the latest data from the U.S. Census, and charges of environmental racism have clung to the crisis since its early days in 2015.

“If this was in a white area, in a rich area, there would have been something done. I mean let’s get real here. We know the truth,” said one Flint resident in the report. 

The commission also provided recommendations to ensure that the crisis doesn't replicate itself, which involved the state creating an environmental justice plan, restricting or replacing the emergency manager law, and training for state employees on implicit bias.

The commission's report comes only days after the state’s government informed the city in a letter on Feb. 7 that since a recent testing showed that the water in Flint met federal standards, it would stop extending state-funded water credits to the city's citizens and paying for the city’s water bill on Feb. 28. 

"In summary, the governor said that he was done with the credits and the state has met their obligation as far as the credits are concerned," Flint Mayor Karen Weaver said on Feb. 14. "What I was told by the governor is Flint water quality meets the same as any other community in Michigan and meets all federal quality standards, and he feels he has upheld his end of the bargain."

Despite the state's claims that the water is safe, there are still an estimated 20,000 lead-ridden pipes still are intact in Flint which means that people may be at risk if they drink it without a filter.